There's something epic, stirring in the shadows
Sometimes it's just fun to be a great, big bastard. That's the main thing I took away from my rather grin-inducing hands-on session with Shadow Realms, BioWare's newly unveiled action-RPG. In it, you play 4 vs 1--good guys versus a single bad. And If you're going to be that single, big bastard, do it with spike traps and oversized, comedy bombs. That shit's just hilarious.
Don't worry: it's fun for the good guys too. Covering six potential classes, and a hell of a lot of (promised) customisation, their 'modern fantasy' blend of magic and real-world weapons makes for a hell of a fighting force. But I'm not one of those guys. I am the Shadowlord, the unseen big-bad, and in-game analogue for a good old-fashioned D&D GameMaster. It is my job to absolutely ruin things for them.
Invisible in my natural, demonic form, I run through the dungeon, just ahead of the heroes, planting booby-trapped floor-spikes in all the places I know those desperate fools will tread. I also learn that a well-placed, quickly detonating bomb is one hell of a deterrent from investigating an otherwise enticing loot drop. Possessing one of the dungeon's mooks, as I am free to do at will, I improve my grunts' effectiveness tenfold, hiding my true identity in the fray and causing all kinds of slam-pit misery by catching the co-op players between multiple demonic attacks.
Best of all, the last of my powers--all limited by a cooldown timer, but a pleasingly short one, in keeping with Shadow Realms' breakneck pace--allows me to possess a clone of one of the good guys, quietly infiltrating the group before beating the merry hell out of them. I separate one of them from the pack, passing myself off as his female assassin buddy in the confusion of the fray. We run ahead together to push back a flanking wave. I trap him in a doorway and stab him senseless, hearing the cries of his real-world self across the room behind me. He was yelling at his team-mate to stop attacking him. I laugh my arse off and keep stabbing.
Despite the serious, doom-laden tone of Shadow Realms' teaser trailers, it's one of those most life-affirmingly anarchic romps I've played in a good while. It's also, accessible, lightning fast, and nourishingly smart in its on-the-fly tactics. The full, episodic story will probably bring the trademark BioWare drama, but the core combat is a glorious festival of laugh-out-loud victimisation.
Every player has a hero and a Shadowlord on their profile. The games exact structure is unclear, but youll use both in the story
Shadow Realms is an episodic, modern fantasy RPG. Narrative will be a big deal, alongside the core action
The initial setting comprises the modern world, and a dark, parallel shadow-world, but other realms, maybe even planets, are coming
Shadow Realms is launching on PC, but may come to PS4 and Xbox One later down the line
As well as grunts, the ShadowLord can possess huge beasts and dungeon bosses. The latter is a stupidly satisfying taste of power